I signed up to be a clinic escort for a local abortion clinic that's being targeted during "40 Days for Life." Which is apparently an annual event at which antiabortion protesters spend 40 days targeting clinics around the country.
Today I went to a "mini training" session. So called because there wasn't any training per se (no role playing or whatnot), it was a veteran clinic escort who just talked about her experiences, gave advice and answered questions. Some of the advice wasn't surprising -- like for instance, her rule #1 was don't engage with the protesters. Because you're there to help the patients get in the door without incident. If you start exchanging insults with the protesters, that's not going to help the patient at all & might even make her feel worse. The best thing to do, she said, was to get in between the protesters and the patient. Don't react to the protesters at all; just provide a physical barrier so their anger seems to be directed more at the escort than at the patient. That made sense to me.
The advice that surprised me was not to talk too much to the patients. At least, not to assume they want to talk. Because a lot of times they're feeling emotional about what's about to happen, and all the ugliness from the protesters just makes it worse. And you might think that a sympathetic conversation would make them feel better, but that may be the last thing they want. She said to just identify ourselves as clinic escorts, ask if they want us to walk with them to the door, and then leave it up to them if they want to talk or not.
I'm signed up to go this Saturday morning. As far as I know there's only going to be two escorts there that morning, so I hope there aren't too many protesters. Wish me luck!